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I’m using the Oscars to teach my daughter about sexism and racism

Common Sense Media

As kids get older, it’s harder to control what media they’re exposed to. When my daughter was young, I could shield her from any red-carpet hoopla and all the sexist messages it sends: rating women on their looks, glorifying luxury goods and the fact that men manage to slip by all the prying questions.

Now, it’s becoming more difficult, as she regularly scans YouTube for celebrity clips and her friends are more up to date on pop-culture events.

But that’s OK, because as children grow up, we parents shift our approaches. And, honestly, I actually kind of like the annual red-carpet tradition. I just want to share it with my daughter on my terms.

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This year, I want to show her that pop culture can be fun — including looking at dresses. I also want her to know it’s OK to enjoy something and still be critical of it. We’ve already scanned through this year’s Golden Globe photos and picked out our favorite colors and designs. We laughed at dresses that look incredibly uncomfortable. And we wondered what it would be like if the men wore something other than black.

As my daughter moves through her tween years, it can be hard to find opportunities to talk about body image, sexism, gender and race that don’t feel forced. These cultural events offer a chance for me to hear how she reacts to seeing a larger woman like Melissa McCarthy on the red carpet, surprise her with intel on Laverne Cox or wonder why so many of the women look alike (thin, white, pretty).

Watching the red carpet also gives me a chance to slip in some deeper messages. I can say, “Jennifer Lawrence tells the funniest jokes!” and “Lady Gaga does so much to fight bullying” in a way that shows her the qualities I find more admirable than appearance. If the chance arises to discuss the #OscarsSoWhite controversy, I can ask her opinion and show that I care what she thinks (as well as offer some subtle suggestions, if necessary).

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And if my daughter chooses not to watch the red carpet — or even the Oscars ceremony itself — I won’t blame her. In fact, if she’d rather design her own dress or put on a play or run wild in the backyard, I’ll shut off the TV and join her. We can always check the best- and worst-dressed Twitter feed later.

Sierra Filucci is Executive Editor, Parenting Content for Common Sense Media. She has been writing and editing professionally for more than a decade, with a special interest in women’s and family subjects. She has a master’s degree in journalism from the University of California at Berkeley, where she wrote her thesis on juggling kids and cooking. With an extensive and abiding interest in pop culture, kids and bossing people around, her role as executive editor for parenting content brings her skills and obsessions together in perfect harmony. When she’s not watching Miyazaki movies with her two kids, she enjoys Parks and RecreationThe Walking Dead and Top Chef.

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